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Sierra Leone: investing in maternal and newborn health for a healthy future

UNICFE/Sierra Leone/2009/Shoo
© UNICFE/Sierra Leone/2009/Shoo
Emilie, 24, with her two-year old daughter are waiting to receive a package of life-saving interventions such as vitamin A and immunization during Well Bodi Week in Sierra Leone.

Waterloo, Sierra Leone, 23 June 2009 - Bringing up a child in a country with some of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates is by no means a simple task.

Emilie Taylor, a 24 year old farmer from the Waterloo Region is one of the many mothers in Sierra Leone who is faced with this challenge.

Emilie was placed in difficult circumstances when her partner abandoned her shortly after her pregnancy was revealed. Balancing her daily job as well as ensuring her child got proper medical attention were without a doubt difficult duties.

Her playful two-year-old daughter is now oblivious to the fading smile on her mother’s face when Emilie re-visits maternity experiences of her loved ones. 

“My cousin lost her child to malaria and a close friend died when she was giving birth.”

Providing a package of life-saving interventions
Her child has just received vitamin A supplementation as part of a larger integrated health package.

Set up in 2008, the Integrated Child health package targets children under five years and mothers of child bearing age.

“It’s a good programme because my girl can now grow up strong and healthy,” Emilie says whilst stroking the hair of her two-year old daughter.

Emilie is one of the many mothers targeted during the Integrated Child health week. “Mami en Pikin Well Bodi Week,”, a campaign set up by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in collaboration with UNICEF, WHO, Hellen Keller and other stake holders that aims to deliver Vitamin A, Deworming, Polio and Yellow fever vaccinations to infants and mothers of child bearing age.

This year, the launch which took place on 29th May included HIV counselling for mothers as well as information on good hygiene and nutritional practices.

Overcoming the obstacles
In a country where many earn less than a dollar a day, it’s near impossible for mothers to ensure their children receive proficient medical attention. However, due to initiatives from the Government and its partners, all these child-health services are provided free of charge.

As Sierra Leone continues to struggle with challenges of human development, UNICEF, the Government as well as NGOs have taken action to reduce its alarming infant mortality rate.

However, whilst the country has achieved a reduction in mortality from 262 per 1000 live births in 2005 to 140 per 1000 in 2008, (latest Demographic Health Survey) more investments in the health sector from international organisations, governments and private donors must be undertaken in order to provide children and mothers with the professional health services they deserve.

By David Shoo







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